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Sepsis: The deadly disease you might not be familiar with

In a typical year, one out of every three people who die in the hospital, die from Sepsis, but new clinical trials in Milwaukee have the potential to save lives.
Posted at 6:49 AM, Sep 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-15 16:44:28-04

MILWAUKEE — In a typical year one out of every three people who die in the hospital, die from Sepsis. That's according to the CDC, and September happens to be Sepsis Awareness Month.

Sepsis is when your immune system triggers an extreme response to a bacteria or virus and it moves fast. Sepsis can cause your organs to shut down within 12 hours, which is deadly.

"We really need to be thinking about Sepsis much like we think about a heart attack," explained Dr. Nathan Ledeboer with Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin as he underlined why Sepsis is a medical emergency.

The challenge with Sepsis, unlike a heart attack, is that many times the symptoms can be general. "We see fever — but we get fever from a lot of things. We see elevated respiratory rate, and again, we can get that from a lot of different things," continued Dr. Ledeboer.

Right here in Milwaukee, there's a new effort to detect Sepsis earlier. "Historically we would culture patients' blood," said Dr. Ledeboer as he described a process that takes five days to see results.

Now, Froedtert & MCW is part of a clinical trial to predict a patient's risk of Sepsis in as little as 10 minutes with a simple blood test. "That (test) really helps us to identify a patient that otherwise looks well, might have one or two symptoms, but isn't super concerning and then crashes while they're in the emergency room," explained Dr. Ledeboer.

Dr. Ledeboer says the new diagnostic test was recently approved by the FDA and now, a second trial has launched. "What we're trying to do, and what we're trying to understand as a local health system, is to make sure that if we implement this here in Milwaukee, that it ultimately benefits you (the patient)."

In the clinical trial, Dr. Ledeboer says the blood test was able to accurately predict a patient's risk of developing sepsis more than 90% of the time.

Click here for more information on Sepsis including the signs and symptoms.

The ability to identify Sepsis early is critical and it's why many hospitals have implemented a Sepsis protocol. Federal guidance is offered, however, the U.S. does not have a national protocol. Milwaukee area healthcare systems including Froedtert & MCW and Aurora Health Care have independently established protocols.

Aurora Health Care launched a Sepsis protocol in 2015. Dr. Hammad Haider-Shah, Chief Medical Officer at Aurora West Allis Medical Center, says across Wisconsin there has been an 11% drop in sepsis mortality among all patients in the last year. And Dr. Haider-Shah added that his hospital has fared even better than that, seeing a Sepsis mortality drop of 54% in patients who acquired Sepsis during their hospital stay.

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